The freight train, operated by Seminole Gulf Railway, derailed on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in an industrial area just a few miles from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in Manatee County. The airport itself is just 52 miles to the south of Tampa. (Related: ANOTHER ONE: Norfolk Southern train with one car carrying hazardous chemicals CRASHES outside Detroit.)
Emergency responders noted that the train was traveling south when the derailment occurred. The cause is currently not known and an investigation is ongoing. The crash affected at least seven rail cars, five of which contained sheetrock and two were filled with propane fuel.
The five rail cars with sheetrock tipped over, along with one of the two rail cars containing propane. The seventh affected rail car was "off the tracks, but upright," according to Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue Chief Robert Bounds, who led the immediate response to contain the disaster.
Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue was joined by personnel from Manatee County Emergency Medical Services and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Bounds estimated that emergency services personnel could remain at the site for up to five to seven days as the "mitigation process" could take that long. He added that they need to bring over heavy equipment to deal with the train cars and fix the tracks.
"We'll be on the scene when they do upright it with all of our personnel and equipment ready to act in the event that something does go wrong," said Bounds. Local media outlets added that the crash caused significant damage to the train tracks, which could leave the railway line inoperable for days even after the tipped-over cars have been cleared.
Bounds added that the crash poses no immediate threat to the public, but evacuations would immediately be ordered if the situation changed. Emergency crews are also regularly monitoring the air quality in the immediate environment.
The Manatee County train derailment is the fifth significant train derailment to occur since the devastating Norfolk Southern train disaster that occurred in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 3.
On Feb. 13, three rail cars in Enoree, South Carolina were derailed. On the same day, a truck driver was killed following a crash involving a Union Pacific train in Splendora, Texas, less than 40 miles north of Houston. Multiple rail cars were affected, including five that contained vinyl chloride.
On Feb. 16, another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Michigan, with over 30 cars derailed. And on Feb. 21, another Union Pacific train carrying coal derailed in Nebraska, affecting more than two dozen rail cars.
Data from the Federal Railroad Administration shows that over 1,000 train derailments happen every year, with most of these incidents classified as minor and causing little to no damage to people and the surrounding environment.
But industry experts have warned that the devastating kinds of train derailments, including the one that just occurred in Manatee County and the one in East Palestine, are more likely to happen now.
This is due to longer trains, the weight of their cargo, potential malfunctions with train equipment, fewer and more overworked rail workers providing services and heavy industry lobbying limiting and pushing back against existing regulations on train safety in an effort to reduce costs.
Get the latest updates regarding train derailments around the country at Disaster.news.
Watch this episode of "Evolutionary Energy Arts" discussing the latest news, including the train derailment that occurred in Florida.